The Gaming Influence…

This is a little interview with mom about her bridge group…As a child, the monthly bridge games were hugely interesting and fascinating to me.  Along with that, our wonderful great aunts (Clara and Grace) were expert bridge players.  It was a momentous occasion to be asked to play when the aunts came to visit!   I was very interested in learning more about how mom’s group came to be, and more importantly, how the group endured all these years…the interview was conducted in July of 2009. 

The Story of “The Bridge Group” an interview with Constance Macdonald Dickson 7/24/09

Bridge was an important social activity for many in Constance’s generation – men and women.   Contract bridge was the game that was played using bidding to make the contract.  The other type of bridge was auction, which Constance never played.  Constance started a formal bridge group in October of 1947, which amazingly continues today…62 years later!  Remarkably, there are two members from the original eight who continue to play with the group – Constance Macdonald Dickson and Marilyn Hickman Radoumis.

When did you begin to first play bridge?  I grew up watching, and playing some, with my mother who played throughout her life.  That’s what people of her generation did…it was a main source of entertainment.  She had a bridge group with whom she played once a month in the evenings.  She taught sixth grade during the day.  In 1947, I was living at home when Bob was in Japan.  We had been married in July and he was sent to Japan later that month.  My mother thought I should start a bridge group.  She gave me four names of teachers from Lakeside School where she taught.

Did you know how to play?  I grew up with it and learned the fundamentals from my mother.  We just started to play…it was just one of those things you did.  Bridge was the important thing for that generation.

Your Cal Berkeley journal lists your first Bridge Group game on October 2, 1947.  Do you remember the names of those who started with you?  Oh, yes…the original players…Mary Beth Teitze, Floy Stockton Ebaugh, Betty Erikson Fraser, Marilyn Hickman Radoumis, Margaret Jeffries Roberts (taught at Union school with me), Nancy and Jeanne were both teachers from Lakeside School and I cannot remember their last names.  Oh, and me.

So you began in October 1947 and played on a Tuesday evening once a month?  Yes, that is how it started.  Every month in the evening we would rotate at each other’s home.  I left for Japan in March of 1948 for a year.  It changed substantially while I was away.  Several had dropped out.  I returned from Japan with Bob and a new baby in 1949 and started bridge again in the fall of that year.  It has continued and never stopped.

What would a typical bridge date look like?  It was a way to be social because we all had children at some point.  It started at night and eventually moved to the daytime…afternoons first, and then Friday mornings.  We would start at about 10:30 in the morning, play until 12:00 noon, have lunch and then continue bridge until about 2:45.  When the kids would get home from school?  (Laughing)Yes…we socialized mostly during lunch.  During the game we really focused on the game, there was not a whole lot of conversation.  Often the hostess would provide the 1st and 2nd prizes for the most points after 6 hands – $7.00 for first prize and $5.00 for second prize.  We had individual scorecards…some bridge groups were quite formal, we were casual.

You had children at school and babies at home at that time?  Yes…

Would husbands play?  Oh yes…we included husbands on special occasions like a holiday dinner.  We used to have one right before Christmas.  We would play bridge and have a holiday dinner.

I have calculated that if your bridge group had played once a month for 11 months of the year, for 62 years, you would have played 682 games (multiplied by 6 hands a game, equals 4,092 hands).   Do you remember any occurrence that stands out?  I remember that I had brought Chet to bridge group as a newborn.  He was born early in October and our bridge group met the 3rd Friday of the month.  It seemed feasible.  Also, we celebrated 50 years of bridge back in 1997.  That was special.  We also celebrated at 40 years.  The reason we had celebrated at 40 years was because who knew if we were going to be around at 50 years.

Thinking back over these past 62 years, who do you remember as the most competitive bridge player from this bridge group?  Well, Norma would tell you when you were wrong and then tell you what to do…she enjoyed the game and was very competitive.  She took long trips and subsequently dropped from the group.

It’s really very remarkable to have kept a group going for 62 years.  Why do think it has lasted throughout all of these years with so much else going on?  It was a form of getting together on a regular basis with women who knew how to play bridge.  We were the same sort of age-group, had children of the same age, and common interests.  It was the entertainment factor.  It was something everyone knew how to do.  In the early years the commonality of the members was that we were all local Bakersfield girls or you had married a Bakersfield boy.

Who are the members in today’s group?  Joan Peacock Holladay, Marilyn Hickman Radoumis, Midge Calvin, Lucille Banning, Virginia Guerrero, Jean Sheldon, Carolyn Seidel, and me.

There are others who may have played during the bridge years, but may not be with the group today.   Can you share those names?  Yes, there were many who moved out of Bakersfield with their husbands, or would have to drop for other reasons.  Often those that would join later would have played as a substitute.  And of course now some have passed on.  It’s difficult to remember… Norma Hake Condley (moved), Gloria Valencia Stewart (deceased), Kathy Owens (moved), Clara Lou Hunt Snook (deceased), Bonnie Winger Pathe (deceased), Fran Smael (no connection and her social level was a little higher than most of us), Jackie Stigenbauer (moved), Faye Rosenlieb (moved), Eunice Nicholson (moved)…

Your journals reflect that you played bridge at other times throughout the month.  On many occasions your journal lists bridge a couple of times during the week.  Who did you play with on those occasions?  We would have bridge sessions at night with husbands once in a while…also, when you invited someone over for dinner, you often played bridge, as well.  It was an entertainment thing.

Were any members also high school classmates?  Yes, Floy, Betty, Gloria – she was a year ahead and had moved away but then came back and joined the group – Clara Lou Hunt was a year ahead, also, and Bonnie Winger.  Did you play in college? Yes, at Berkeley…when I lived in the fraternity house before they had built the student housing.  There was always a game going on…people would drop out and people would take their place.

Were your sisters bridge players also?  You know, they were both older and I’m sure they were, but I can’t give you any details.  By the time I was old enough to be involved they were long gone from the local area – they had married and were out of town.

Do your children play? As far as I know, nobody does…maybe because all the children work and they have careers…they grew up and started jobs and it did not include bridge.  Aunt Grace and Aunt Clara would play when they were here visiting in Bakersfield…the children were often included in those games as a fourth which they enjoyed tremendously…it was a real learning experience for them.

What aspect of the game excited you the most? Oh my, well, the socializing.  I began to not be very proficient at the game because I was having children and the interest was not playing the game, but we kept it going as a social game.  We were just playing just for fun. 


4 thoughts on “The Gaming Influence…

  1. I am sorry to report that my mother, Margaret Jeffries Roberts, passed away on January 3, 2013. She loved playing bridge with her friends in Bakersfield!

  2. I can remember a journal she kept in the blue bathroom — started after Dad died. Many entries were similar in nature (events) but full of timely information about the life & times of Mom during the 1970s.

  3. Great post. I would think there’s A LOT of social science going on connected to that post. You made a couple of references to Mom’s ‘Journals’. Do you have those? How encompassing are they? Are you planning to post those sometime?- somewhere?. It would be great fun to read.

    1. Hi Chet,
      No, I don’t have mom’s Cal Berkeley journals. I believe (and hope) they continue to be at her house. Mom kept journals for 15 years beginning in January 1947 after she had returned from Cal. Her last journal was for the year 1962. The journals were actually student datebooks from Cal. She would purchase a new book every year. The datebooks were kept to record social dates, appointments, and also included entries of special events (e.g. births, weddings). All of the entries were short; one or two words…not narrative or diary-like in any manner. In fact, it was really great that mom was sitting with us as we went through them because there were lots of entries that made no sense until she clarified what she had posted (this took place several years ago…thank the lord). It was great fun because it stimulated lots of conversation and memories!
      Mom continued to “journal” throughout her life even after the Cal datebooks…not sure if subsequent “journals” have been kept the same way the Cal datebooks have been saved…

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